Exploring the esoteric world of action figure collectibles.
The world of action figures is ever more esoteric these days, but for some people, a character can never be too obscure or unexpected. Enter Cosmic Evil, who produce limited edition figures based on characters from cult movies and pop culture figures, all of which seem to be just the sort of thing a discerning collector would want. Intrigued by the figure based on Mandy‘s Cheddar Goblin (how eccentric and how essential is that?), we contacted Cosmic Evil’s Patrick Clement, who is also a filmmaker and general creative artist, and probed him with a series of questions about the Cosmic Evil universe…
You’re a film maker – how does that feed your action figure inspiration, or are they totally separate entities?
Filmmaking is a lot of talking and thinking and writing and waiting. It’s not (for the most part) a tangible art form. I used to make zines and play in bands and I ran a record label for a few years so I love making stuff. Cosmic Evil is just another excuse for me to make something with my hands! Certainly there’s some overlap but I wouldn’t draw a direct line between them. Although I find creative people are often creative outside a single pursuit and it’s fun making toys of movies I love.
How do choose your characters? Because they seem to be from quite varied backgrounds…
I make toys for fun so I just kind of have a running list of stuff I want to make. I like a lot of different stuff. I also tend to like things other people don’t like. I have, I think, unusual tastes. Particularly in the custom action figure world. Honestly, I am really not excited about Star Wars customs, or TMNT or He-Man or whatever is the super hot bootleg style toys right now. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. I have a line of Tarkovsky film figures I’m making which I am sure like five people will really like. I just make what I like and I love when other people like them, but ultimately it’s a somewhat selfish exercise.
How do you go about clearing rights etc? And has anyone objected to the idea?
For the most part I think people understand you are making fan art or pop art. I try to be as reverent as I can. I also don’t make a huge enterprise and sell tons of figs. Never. I tried that once with a company and made like ten figures for them to sell on commission and it was a terrible experience. They only cared about making as much money as possible. There is a sort of gray area where fandom could cross over into profiteering and I try my best to stay on the right side. I’m also a nobody, so maybe I’m just not big enough to get on anyone’s radar.
When did this skill set start?
Well, I am a Columbia University Film MFA and had been in NY (I live in Kansas now) for three years. I wanted to give some of the staff and faculty thank you gifts and so I made this custom Mego style 8″ action figure set for one of the tech staff and I had a blast making it. Then last Winter I made a big set of Mandy figures and it was a ton of fun so I just sort of followed that feeling. I also know when it will end, when I stop having fun.
How long does it take to create each piece? And how many are produced?
It takes way too long to make any of my toys. I have dabbled in resin casting but most of the figs I make are kitbashed and/or sculpted. I also have to source parts for the 8″ Mego style figs and that can take some time and digging. I’d say on average it takes me about 10 hours total to do an 8″ fig and 4-5 hours for a 3.75″ for start to finish. Is that a long time? I rarely make more than one fig, but occasionally I’ll make 2-3.
Tell us about the Beanie Babies?
Beanie Babies are amazing. They are a classic toy disaster scenario so they have this sort of mystical draw for me. Having been in the collectibles business for almost 15 years I watched the rise and fall of the Beanie Baby with wide-eyed amazement. I really don’t know how to channel it, but occasionally I have an idea and follow through. Like with the Tusk Beanies. It was a mix of Kevin Smith’s ‘dark years’ (which I love) that I think starts with Cop Out and ends with Tusk and the Eighties phenomimon of turning clearly adult themed movies into toys. Like Rambo, Beetlejuice, Police Academy, Ghostbusters. Those movies aren’t really for children. In Police Academy, Commandant Lassard gets a BJ from a hooker, but thinks it’s Mahoney. That became a cartoon. How?
What’s your favourite character?
I think my favorite toys I ever made was the Brother Swan 3.75″ of Ned Dennehy from Mandy. I dont really know why. I love that figure. I also really like my Buster Skruggs series. I thought I did a nice job on those. But it’s all relative. Personally and artistically, Honestly, I could throw the figures away when I’m done with them. Cause they’ve given me what I want once they are done. I’ve gotten everything I wanted out of them. The commerce and all that other stuff is just sort of the aftermath. I guess my favorite character is the one I’m working on at any one moment.
You are also an antique dealer, which hints at a collectors mind set – do you see a connection?
Being an antique dealer is fun and it pays the bills and I find a lot of enjoyment in it. I get to buy and sell amazing things sometimes and I don’t have to work at Carl’s Jr or pour blacktop or bag groceries. Thats a big plus. But I don’t really think about that when making toys. If anything making the toys are an escape from that part of my life. Being an antique dealer isn’t very creative. It’s more analytical. It’s a numbers game.
Who would be the dream collector of your toys?
I’m not sure. I think if I make a toy and that can make someone happy it’s a cherry on the sundae.
And what’s next for you?
I’m moving back to LA and shooting a film in January so I’m not sure how productive I’ll be going into the next year. I’m sure I will still make stuff, but I have no idea how much or when. I have some small resin toys I’m working on and I have some pre-orders to fill. Making toys is still kind of fun so I’ll keep working. But the best part is that I also could just totally walk away not feel like I owe anyone anything. Not that I am not grateful for the people who like my work. I have a line of Steve Brule figs coming out soon and I’m making bootleg Army Ants figures called “Piss Ants” that will be kind of fun.
INTERVIEW BY GIPSIE CASTIGLIONE